We picked up a copy of the EID currently being used at the Ontario Livestock Exchange (OLEX) in Waterloo, Ontario. For a document that supposedly exerts “quality control” over horsemeat, notice that there are no CFIA headers or logos; it is however, “branded” with the name Richelieu and replete with embarrassing spelling errors and typos in both English and French. It is missing a fair bit of information that is present on the sample EID in the CFIA Meat Hygiene Manual for equines as well, including an indicator of the primary use of the horse (recreation/companion animal/ pleasure riding, breeding, ranch/farm work, public work, private industry work, performance/sport/show, racing, rodeo, urine production, food production.) I guess they don’t want high risk animals to be unnecessarily flagged for drugs. Note that on the first page, Richelieu refers to the document itself, not unironically, as “DIE.” It is due to moments like these perhaps, that humorists were born.
As with any other paper version of the EID, the owner is expected to complete the column “withdrawal period.” There is little likelihood
that anyone will follow the obscenely long URL at the bottom of the page, and if they did, they wouldn’t likely understand it since it directs the form user to the French version of the CFIA’s Meat Hygiene Manual – on an English form. It’s completely misleading to provide a link to French guidelines on an English form that is mostly used by english-speaking horse people. So under the circumstances, how would anyone find the withdrawal time for a specific drug even if they knew what it was?
Withdrawal times also vary depending on drug delivery methods – whether oral/IV/IM and whether used in combination with other drugs. The dose itself along with the frequency of use (repeated oral administrations can greatly extend withdrawal times) are two of the most important factors. Compounded drugs (as opposed to generic or branded drugs sold OTC or through veterinarians) can vary widely in potency as well. The amount of body fat, the breed, gender and health of the horse are also factors that affect kinetic decay of drugs. Lastly, the amount of stress that the horse is subject to may also affect withdrawal times. And even though a pharmacological effect on the animal may be over, the drug and its metabolites may still be detectable, and those metabolites may also be prohibited. The CFIA manual doesn’t tell anyone this, nor could they expect the lay horse person to understand any of the factors that also affect withdrawal times and drug tests, so the person completing the form, even if honest, is never provided with the appropriate information.
Of course, the system isn’t designed to encourage former owners to give too much thought to what drugs a horse may have been given on or off-label during the course of its life. It’s to the benefit of the slaughterhouses that short-term owners will be unaware of the existence of a list of prohibited drugs or drugs that must be withdrawn for days or months, since this means fewer declarations of drug administrations, and allows the CFIA to crow about a “98% compliance rate for drugs.” If there were adherence to the Meat Hygiene manual, the majority of horses would be disqualified outright because of Phenylbutazone and other drug usage, including virtually all former race horses. Those that were not disqualified outright would probably need to be held for six months for withdrawal. You couldn’t even immediately slaughter a horse that had recently been wormed.
We saw how corruptible and falsifiable equine passports were during the EU lasagna adulteration scandal two years ago, where meat has for years been extruded through a supply system that could hardly be more opaque, and foreign gangsters and mafia were secretly adulterating the food supply with profit as the main incentive. This is hardly much different than what happens currently In Canada, (minus the organized crime connection) where the EID system provides as much traceability and drug-free conclusiveness as does buying meat off the street from a stranger – because official ID isn’t required in order to complete an EID. Yet the CFIA perversely insists that the paper EID is just as good as the falsifiable passports that allowed the EU horsemeat scandal to happen.
Henry Skjerven, former director of Natural Valley Farms in Saskatchewan, said:
“US and Canada were never geared for raising horses for food consumption. The system as it stood when we were killing horses was in no way, shape or form, safe, in my opinion.
We did not know where those horses were coming from, what might be in them or what they were treated with. I was always in fear – I think that it was very valid – that we were going to send something across there [to the EU] and we were simply going to get our doors locked after we had some kind of issue with the product.”